Be the change you wish to see

i think I am probably going to do a couple of weeks on my experiences at the bapca conference. This one will be less about my personal experience and more about BAPCA.

Going back to ADPCA last year, I listened to some people say they didn’t feel safe with ‘some people’ at the conference. It seemed to be a long-standing thing and I had no idea who or what it referenced. As the ‘outsider’ (it was my first time) it engendered a feeling of unsafety for me, and also of rules that I didn’t know if I was breaking. I didn’t know if I was talking to the ‘wrong’ person, and I am concerned about my own safety with regards to who is safe or not to become close to.

At the BAPCA conference this year, someone was named in group as having had several inappropriate relationships where you might reasonably expect those not to happen (for example, as a counsellor, tutor, trainer, etc).  I have to be honest. My first two responses were a) relief that *something* was out in the open and b) a thought about whether that was (one of) who was being talked about last year. I don’t know the answer to that.

I saw the community rocked by this. It became clear that some people were on one side and some were on another. My question was about whether there was evidence- my concern was that as a ‘newbie’ I was listening to a narrative by one person about another person (who had chosen not to be present) involving other people (also not present) that I’d never met. It becomes difficult to make a judgement although I tend towards thinking that ‘a string’ of allegations leads to some important questions. I was told a statement was made by one person and that originally the BACP were approached with that. That’s enough for me. At that point, I have to say ‘I believe her’.

A different community I am part of had a similar conversation last year. A consent violation was alleged, and initially denied. Then, much like the Saville case (and seemingly every high profile case since), more and more people came out to say ‘me too’, over years, even (in my case) as the original victim was still being vilified publicly and privately. I know that because when I contacted them privately to say simply ‘I believe you’ that’s what I was told in return. Those consent violations had been happening for years. I had not known and I had been at very personal potential risk.

For me there is no fence to sit on. I must be on one side or the other, and it is unthinkable to me that I should be against a potential victim. It comes from personal experience. Seven years ago I experienced my own consent violation. Dealing with the aftermath literally nearly killed me- I was spiralling into suicide attempts, an eating disorder, a lot. I came out of it thanks to my family. My mum literally saved my life. But a few months later I started to hear rumours about myself from friends across the country (From Suffolk to Northamptonshire to the Midlands) that I was accusing the person of X and that I was lying. On finding the original source of the rumours, it was someone I had briefly met once and who after the fact had met him and they had become friends. And the reason I say ‘there is no fence’ is because the people who said to me ‘I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened, so I can’t say for sure’ essentially felt like they were saying ‘I don’t believe your experience is true’. For them, my aftermath meant nothing (I gave up my job, my home, my life and moved across the country to escape).

I cannot be that person. All the consent violations I have mentioned are different- I’m not equating any of them. But they are all deeply personal and involve a misuse of personal and structural power.

So, I was glad that the ‘rumour’ had names and dates. But it meant that BAPCA was now falling apart. I went to the ‘what’s next for BAPCA?’ meeting and also spoke to a few people and it was clear to me that there was some unease around the CG and processes. At the meeting, I was trying to decide whether or not to stand for the CG, when my friend spoke to stand. At that point I decided that I could too. I had not wanted to be the lone voice, but felt sure then, that on a lot of things I would not be the lone voice. So I have been co-opted on to the CG. I also know of one other person who definitely wants to be co-opted, and one who is saying she does (but I’ve had less specific conversation with her), and I think that the four of us are a) very different people to each other, but also b) very different people to many of the CG and I hope that it will provide a balance in processes.

I don’t know if this will be a long-term ‘staying’ for me or not. I am undecided on many things, but I also know that I do have a chance to change things- so I will take that opportunity up.

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Ethics and books

 

English: Field boundaries

English: Field boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’ve read a couple of books recently that have had me thinking about ethics and limits. I’ve also bumped into this in my own practice.

 

The books I’ve read were Ethical Maturity in the Helping Professions: Making Difficult Life and Work Decisions  by Michael Carroll and Elisabeth Shaw and When boundaries betray us  by Carter Heyward.

 

Ethical maturity is a fabulous book and I wish I’d known about it when we did our first year ethics module. I read it as part of being a book reviewer for BAPCA (it should be in PCQ in this edition coming) and as a net result, asked my training institution to buy copies for the library, which they have. But the book talks about how to make decisions, and when decisions aren’t easy. It also discusses the difference between MAKING ethical decisions and CARRYING OUT ethical decisions (amongst other things). The title is somewhat dry, but the book is fascinating – it’s the most interesting ethics book I’ve read (and I have two other degrees in psychology, so I’ve read a few). It’s a theory-based book, from two therapists’ points of view, and gave me insight into my own processes.

 

When boundaries betray us however, is a very different book. Written by a feminist lesbian theologian and ordained priest, it documents the story from her point of view, as the client who decides that she would like to move to a friendship with her (lesbian) therapist after her therapy ends. The voice of the therapist is absent in this book, so it is entirely from the client’s point of view. And I find myself sympathising with the client AND with the therapist – I can see where boundaries are pushed, or not held as they might be, on both parts, and I can see wounding happening as well as healing. Of a lot of interest to me is the connection that is discussed a lot in the book. It isn’t what we might call ‘relational depth’ – it is an over-arching connection, rather than a specific one, and as a queer person with a queer therapist myself, and someone who experiences a ‘connection’ that they can’t quantify with their therapist, I wonder if it is the ‘queerness’ that makes it. If not, what does? There is a sharedness about it, an almost unspoken connection, certainly not quantified within the book.

 

The book is interesting in that it has forced me to look at my own relationship with my therapist. I kind of want to march in with the book, thrust it at her and demand to know if she’s read it. But then, I don’t want to worry her into wondering if I think our relationship is like that one, which ends on a Very Bad Note. But still – there is a conversation to be had. In truth, I noticed the issue with the connection before I read the book – in therapy last week it was in my head but I didn’t speak it. I wonder how many clients do not speak the connection with their therapists and let these go unsaid. I wonder how big an elephant this can become in therapy?

A second thought is about my own relationship with a client. I was poking around with the relationship in my recent supervision, when Fred kindly paved the way for me to see what I had been doing ‘wrong’ (I have an excellent supervisor; sometimes I dislike that fact!), and once I could see what  I was doing I was left with no personal choice but to address it. It involved putting the therapy relationship on the table and examining it with my client. That was *hard*. But the session that came after felt ‘better’ than previous ones. It remains to be seen what the long-term difference is, but that I had addressed it rather than leaving it as my own elephant is of great relief.

 

 

 

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Colors

Colors (Photo credit: josef.stuefer)

Memberships(and what you get)

As a trainee, you probably have to join some kind of association (trainees lucky enough to get a placement with a BACP organisational membership may not have to, which might save you some pounds. But for those who do: The two main ones are UKCP and BACP. You won’t need me to tell you that. Whilst anyone in training can join BACP as a student/trainee, unless you’re on a UKCP course, you can’t join UKCP except as an ‘affiliate’ member. Aside from those two, there are a number of other groups that might be useful to join/be aware of 🙂 Starting with the two ‘recommended’ ones:

  • UKCP: Trainee membership costs you £67 annually(student membership, which you can only have until you see clients is £37), and for that you can get cheap insurance (from £10 a year). You also get a regular magazine: The PSychotherapist, with a cross-modal focus (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything directly ‘person-centred’-related in it, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
  • BACP: Student membership is £74 and is designed to be the same whether you are seeing clients or not. For that, you receive a regular magazine: Therapy Today – parts of which you can view free online. You also get free electronic access to their research journal: Counselling and Psychotherapy Research (link goes to the free copy). You also get discounted entry to the various events that they organise.
  • ADPCA: Association for the development of the person-centred approach are a person-centred organisation. Their student membership is $15/£10, and their standard membership is $30/£20. For that you get their Person-centred journal once a year, and their newsletter. You also get discounted rates to the bi-annual conference, which is often in USA
  • BAPCA British association for the person-centred approach are a UK person-centred organisation. Student membership is £45/year, although it doesn’t say it on the main page – it does when you click through. For that you get a regular BAPCA newsletter, and a paper copy of PCEP journal (link goes to free copy). If you want electronic access, you can pay an extra £17/year to upgrade to it. You also get discounted rates for the bi-annual conference, often held in the Midlands (UK).
  • WAPCEPC  World association for person centered and experiential psychotherapy and counseling are (as the name says) an international membership organisation. Student membership is 30 euros/£25, or if you are a BAPCA member, 20 euros/£16.50. For this you get electronic access to PCEP, a newsletter 3x a year and a 50 euro/£41 reduction on the PCE conference price. The conference is held at various international locations bi-annually on opposite years to the BAPCA conference.
  • ACC Association of christian counsellors are a multi-modal group (not just person-centred). Student membership is £35. For this you get a magazine four times a year
  • BAATN Black and Asian therapists’ network are also multi-modal. Student membership is £20 and for this you get a newsletter (and the chance to advertise in it if you wish) and access to student support groups. There is also a member’s area online and an annual conference, that you will get a 10% reduction on.
  • PCSR Psychotherapists and counsellors for social responsibility is for anyone (therapist or not) who has an interest in politics or social responsibility. Student rate is £30/year and for this you get online access to the journal Psychotherapy and politics international and also the association’s own in-house magazine. You can however, join the website and take part in online conversations for free.
  • Pink Therapy is a FREE organisation that is the largest independent organisation working with sexual and gender diversity clients. They have a regular newsletter and a facebook group. As well as this, they put on an annual conference with a general theme of gender, sexual or relationship diversity (2014 conference was Trans*, 2013 was lesbian) with discounts available to students.

Are there any I’ve missed?

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Memberships

conference-going

The Asia-Pacific plenary session of the Intern...

The Asia-Pacific plenary session of the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to a conference this weekend  (Emerging trans* run by @pinktherapyUK for those who want to know and I’d recommend pinktherapy conferences to anyone – they aim to explore the full diversity of human sexual/relationship/gender/sexual diversity experience that we might encounter as therapists).

 

It can be a daunting thing to do as a trainee – last summer as a first year, I went to the BAPCA conference. I wasn’t going to go to the BAPCA one – it was expensive, and I was a student. I was worried that I would be out of my depth. But when i looked at the site, they had bursaries available and on a whim, I applied for one. They gave it to me. I was nothing short of amazed, and then of course, I had to go – someone else had paid for me.

 

What both of the conferences (with their very different themes) had in common was just how friendly they were. At the BAPCA conference I didn’t have a ‘trainee therapist’ label, (at the trans* conference I could choose to give myself a label and i chose that one), but I felt free to speak as myself, as a trainee, and give my own experiences, which were well-received and I was treated with kindness throughout. It was the same experience this weekend; I was much less daunted, and much more secure (in part because I do have actual clients, and some of them have fallen into the category that was the theme for the conference – hence the interest!).

 

As a trainee who pays out a horrendous amount each month for my training, the conference was on the high side for me, but the experience of the first conference taught me that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ and so I asked if there was any way/concession for volunteers. Dominic kindly accepted me as a volunteer, and for half-price entry, all I needed to do at the weekend was to sell Pink Therapy’s 5GB memory sticks loaded with 400+ papers covering a range of sexual diversities (including LGBT, non-monogamy, BDSM and asexuality) to anyone who asked me for one. It wasn’t arduous – I have the memory stick already and have found it an invaluable resource. I got to see all of the seminars and missed nothing, whilst at the same time, having a great opportunity to talk to people from a variety of backgrounds about our shared trans-related interests, amongst other things.

 

People at conferences all seem to remember very well that they were trainees once, and they were absolutely kind. Both at this conference and at the BAPCA conference, I was able to meet people who had written text books that I own (in some cases my core texts) and have conversations with them ‘just like they were anyone else!’ (to quote myself last summer).

 

This summer is the ADPCA conference in Nottingham. I’m going. I also applied for one of the bursaries for that, and was successful. There is a pre-conference day, and then the conference itself. I shall be there for the pre-conference day, and the first full day of the conference, as it is my last training weekend of the year. Whilst sad that I will not get to attend all of it, I’m very grateful for the chance to attend those bits, and this time, I won’t be feeling so out of place as a student, as essentially, I know I’m guaranteed a warm welcome.

 

For anyone who wants to know what sorts of things happened at the BAPCA conference, check out the Online Events webpage. They filmed most, if not all of the keynotes from people like Gillian Proctor, Art Bohart, Stephen Joseph and Peter Schmid to name a few, and all of them are available in their library free to students. They have much more available than this and their library is well-worth a look.

 

Some of the other trainees I met at the BAPCA conference last year will be going to the ADPCA conference this year (the BAPCA conference will be on again in 2015 and I hope to be presenting – if you want to go, start looking out early for bursaries!), and we have – those of us still in contact – decided that we will meet and have dinner after the conference one night. If you’re a trainee and you want to join us, let me know!

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